Dr Franz Smola and Emil Wallner at the Google Arts & Culture Lab in Paris (France) © Google Arts & Culture
Google Arts & Culture uses artificial intelligence
A collection of "Vienna Faculty Paintings" by Gustav Klimt was looted by the Nazis and destroyed by fire during World War II. When only black and white photographs remain, it is impossible to know how the paintings were originally colored. To recreate Klimt's paintings, Google's Arts & Culture team used artificial intelligence (AI) to get the best estimate possible from archival and scientific data.
Dr Franz Smola, curator of the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, said: "The result was surprising, as we were able to color it even in places where we had no knowledge." Machine learning assumes that Klimt used certain colors. The Austrian Ministry of Education commissioned Klimt to paint the "Vienna Faculty Pictures", which depicted the Faculties of Philosophy, Medicine and Law at the University of Vienna.
An astonishing online exhibition of the artist's work
Klimt had to move his studio to accommodate the paintings, which were over 4 meters high. He completed them in the early 1900s. The paintings were ultimately rejected by the university because they showed a world torn apart by sex, death and chaos rather than a world turned to science and reason. Before the Nazis stole and stored the works at Schloss Immendorf in 1938, they were sold privately.
When the German army fled, it set the Schloss Immendorf on fire on May 8, 1945, destroying the "faculty paintings" as well as many other Klimt pieces. The AI project is part of Klimt vs Klimt - The Man of Contradictions, an amazing online exhibition of the artist's work, curated by Smola and launched today.
Google Arts & Culture has worked with over 30 institutions and partners to digitize hundreds of works of art, including paintings, drawings, letters, and more. Hundreds of high resolution images are included, as well as an augmented reality gallery with 63 masterpieces by Klimt, such as the "faculty paintings".